Five million dollars.
That’s the cost of discrimination — the amount of money recently awarded to eight black men in Lexington when a jury found that they had been the victims of discrimination and upon their rightful reporting of such, suffered retaliation, while employed by United Parcel Service.
Thankfully, the Lexington citizens chosen as jurors made a decision on the right side of history. It is at times hard to believe the injustice and outright lack of respect for human life and dignity that still pervade our society in 2016.
This lawsuit was not about money, but the evil that plagues us all in the form of racial bias. While it may be acceptable in certain circles to use racially charged hate-filled verbiage in the privacy of one’s home, this verdict establishes that you cannot do so in the marketplace, nor in our schools.
This principle must be upheld whether our institutions of education are public or private. And most importantly, when we have educational institutions which exist solely to raise up young men and women imbued with religious morals and a philosophy that espouses we are all children of one Creator, equally loved and possessing equal dignity. Surely, such institutions don’t want to be known as breeding grounds for racist, sexist or other bigoted thought and action.
As the vice president of the Lexington NAACP, I am calling for the removal of the leaders of Lexington Catholic High School because they have perpetuated this exact form of hate.
In March, an African-American mother of a student there filed a police report pertaining to continued racially charged harassment that went completely unaddressed by the school administration, ultimately resulting in a death threat to her son. The mother withdrew her child, and the following week, another mother was forced to follow suit due to a surge in race-based discrimination after the issue was brought to light.
On April 15, three white females, all former students at the school, retained attorney Amos Jones, claiming that their complaints of sexual harassment or assault were ignored by the school and/or the Catholic Diocese of Lexington, which has oversight of the school.
I am also advocating for the removal of Confederate statues that so blatantly disrespect not just the black community, but our entire community at the old courthouse. These are symbols of the ideology succinctly imparted in 1861 by Alexander Stephens in his cornerstone speech: “Our new government (the Confederacy) is founded upon (this) idea; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition.”
This is what I see and what my children must endure as we walk down Main Street of this great city that I call “My Old Kentucky Home.”
My brothers and sisters and fellow Lexingtonians, I beseech you, take heed from this judgment of our peers in the UPS lawsuit. Consider the ramifications of the toxic culture that has been propagated at Lexington Catholic. Do we truly believe in the state motto, “United We Stand, Divided We Fall?”
Removing leaders is not the cure for Lexington Catholic but it’s certainly an essential step in transforming the school’s current cultural climate.
I am also not insisting that we erase history by relocating the Confederate statues from downtown. However, these symbols were strategically placed as a memorial for sympathizers and a reminder to those dehumanized.
For the sake of our commonwealth, we must not honor the darkest hour in American history.
Adrian D. Wallace is vice president of the Lexington NAACP.